The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project
Update before the summer of 2005
By Aren Maeir
The Institute of Archaeology
Bar Ilan University
Before beginning the 2005 season at the tell, July 10 – August 5, 2005, here is a short update on what has happened in the project since the last update to "The Bible and Interpretation" in 2002.
Although we did not excavate in 2003, we were back in the field in the summer of 2004, and we had some very interesting and important results. During the 2004 season, we had a very large group of students and volunteers from all over the world, all of whom helped make the season a very successful one.
As in previous years, the primary focus of the excavation was on the eastern side of the tell in Areas A and E. The main finds from this part of the tell can be summarized as follows:
In addition to the excavations on the eastern side of the tell, our work continued in other parts of the site as well.
In Area C (on the northeastern side of the siege trench, located to the east of the tell itself), we continued to expose a large building that may be related to the Iron Age siege system. This system, which we relate to the siege and capture of Gath by Hazael, has been studied in previous years. The building is quite large, spanning more than 20 meters and partially built of large stone monoliths. Although the exact function and relation to the siege system is unclear, currently it does seem related to it and may possibly be a building/tower that was built in connection with the siege. Future work on this part of the site is still required.
An important development during the 2004 season was the opening of a new excavation area (Area F) located on the top of the tell, about 100 meters NNW of the summit. Since previously we had not excavated near this part of the tell due to the modern cemeteries located in this area, this was an important development since this offered us our first opportunity to excavate finds from the center of the site where hopefully a more complete stratigraphic record of the settlement of the site survived. The area was chosen since it appeared to be located outside of the limits of the Modern Arab cemetery, the Crusader period fortress, and the earlier British excavations (by Bliss and Macalister). And in fact, we "hit pay dirt!" After opening three trial squares to check the feasibility of excavating this area, we very quickly discovered that this area has much potential. Immediately below the surface, we found medieval remains, and soon after we reached what appears to be a destruction level dating to the Iron Age IIB. It seems, based on the finds that have been found so far, that this level can be dated to the late 8th century BCE, possibly to the time of Hezekiah reign and Sennacherib’s campaign to Judea. LMLK handles found in the British excavations may possibly be related to this phase. Due to the apparent success of this trial excavation near the summit of the tell, we hope to expand this area in future seasons, possibly turning it into one of the main focuses of the excavation.
In addition to the excavation itself, in the last several years we have been conducting various related studies on and around the tell. This includes the surface survey; geomorphologic research; and remote sensing, using ground penetrating radar (see http://www.mnemotrix.com/geo/essafi/trench/intro04.html). (For summaries of some of this research, see the bibliography listed below).
Several studies relating to our work on the site have been published recently (or are now in press), and additional information is available to interested parties. We are now working hard to publish the first volume summarizing our work on the tell and do hope that it will be out within the next year. Remember, it is still not too late to join us.